The Pittsburgh Steelers kept pace with the Baltimore Ravens and avoided an embarrassing home loss on national television to a one-win Kansas City Chiefs team when linebacker Lawrence Timmons intercepted a Matt Cassel pass on the second play of overtime, setting up a 23-field goal by Shaun Suisham to give the Steelers a 16-13 overtime win on Monday night.
The Steelers' win would come with a steep injury price that puts the team's playoff hopes in doubt.
Kansas City opened the scoring with a four-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by running back Jamaal Charles. For the Chiefs, whose lone win came via the final play of overtime, it was the first time they had led a game in regulation this season. Kicker Ryan Succop would add to that lead with a 22-yard field early in the second period.
Pittsburgh would even the score on their first two possessions after the Succop field, getting on the scoreboard initially when Suisham capped off an 11-play, 43-yard drive with a 35-yard field goal. Following the first of five three-and-outs on the night by the Chiefs offense, Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace hooked up for a spectacular 7-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 10 with 3:16 to play in the second quarter. Wallace used his knees to keep the ball off the turf, securing possession before any part of his body landed out of bounds.
On the opening possession of the third quarter, Roethlisberger attempted to buy himself some extra time on a third-and-4 play, but was sacked by Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston and landed awkwardly on his right arm. Roethlisberger immediately made his way to the locker room and would be replaced by veteran backup Byron Leftwich, who had not appeared in a regular-season game since Jan. 2, 2011 when he replaced Roethlisberger after the Steelers had built up a 38-3 lead midway through the third quarter in the 2010 regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns.
Following Roethlisberger's injury, the Chiefs appeared to have broken the 10-10 tie when wide receiver Dwayne Bowe took a quick screen from Cassel 22 yards for a touchdown. However, that play would be nullified by a holding penalty on left tackle Branden Albert. The Chiefs would settle for a 33-yard field-goal attempt by Succop, but would come away empty as the kick sailed wide right.
With only one regular-season appearance in the last 37 months, Leftwich's first set of downs was predictably shaky. After overthrowing Wallace on first down, Leftwich was hit while in his throwing motion for an incomplete pass on his second attempt. The play was initially ruled a fumble, which Houston recovered and returned 21 yards for a go-ahead touchdown that led to a group celebration in the end zone. The replay official overruled the ruling on the field, but the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Chiefs would be enforced.
On Pittsburgh's next possession, Leftwich led the team on an 11-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard field by Suisham to give the Steelers a 13-10 lead with 12:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.
That score would hold up as both defenses would clamp down, with the Chiefs keying on stopping the Steelers' rushing attack while Pittsburgh forced three consecutive three-and-outs, using their pass rush, which was led by veteran defensive end Brett Keisel, to sack and harass Cassel into poor throws.
Cassel made good on the Chiefs' final possession of regulation. Taking over at their own 20-yard line, Cassel connected with tight end Tony Moeaki on pass plays of 18 and 12 yards to give the Chiefs the ball at midfield with over a minute to play and no timeouts. Following an incomplete pass to Bowe, who along with Steelers safety Ryan Clark, was shaken up on the play, Cassel hit Dexter McCluster for 5 yards before finding Moeaki for a 12-yard gain to put the Chiefs in field-goal range. A questionable pass interference penalty on Moeaki would negate that gain and move the Chiefs back to their own 45-yard line.
An incomplete pass to McCluster set the stage for a critical fourth-and-15 play. Cassel found Bowe over the middle for a 27-yard catch-and-run that set-up a 46-yard field goal by Succop to force overtime.
On the second play of the overtime period, Cassel attempted to squeeze the ball into a well-covered Bowe, but Timmons made a leaping interception and nearly scored a touchdown, returning the ball 23 yards to the Chiefs' 5-yard line before he was pushed out of bounds by Albert. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wasted no time, sending out Suisham on first down to drill the 23-yard game-winning field goal.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that Roethlisberger has suffered a separated shoulder, but it was unclear how much time the quarterback would miss. Confirmation of the diagnosis is expected to come down on Tuesday.
With the win, the Steelers are now 6-3 and remain a game behind the Ravens in the AFC North. Roethlisberger's injury could not come at a worse time for the Steelers, who will face the Ravens in two of the next three weeks, including next Sunday night at Heinz Field. For the Chiefs, they battled hard, particularly on defense, but fell to 1-8 and are now assured of a fifth non-winning season in the last six years. The Chiefs host the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday, the first of a three-game home stand that also includes visits from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.